For today’s movie review, we’ve got a movie doing double-duty again, both as a recent Blu-ray release as well as starting off my Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon! That film, of course, is the 1941 musical Nice Girl? starring Deanna Durbin!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Bear Shooters (1930)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 20 minutes, 29 seconds)
The gang all go camping to hunt bears, but they unknowingly come across a pair of bootleggers who try to scare them off. While it’s not quite as good as some of the previous few Little Rascals shorts, this one was still quite entertaining. Of course, this one provides the laughs through two gags: Chubby (Norman Chaney) putting limburger cheese on the sick Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) instead of the grease he was supposed to, and one of the bootleggers dressed up as a gorilla. The gang are also joined by Leon Janney as “Spud” (apparently a one-time appearance), who is a rather forgettable character. Still, like the others that I’ve seen so far, it was fun, and worth seeing!
And Now For The Main Feature…
In the town of Stillwater, Connecticut lives high school principal Oliver Dana (Robert Benchley) and his three daughters. His oldest, Sylvia (Anne Gwynne), is a wannabe actress. His youngest, Nancy (Ann Gillis), likes to flirt with some of the boys (to the point of them physically fighting over her). His middle daughter, Jane (Deanna Durbin), helps him out with some of his dietary experiments. Jane resents her “nice girl” image, especially since her boyfriend, Don Webb (Robert Stack), seems to pay more attention to his car than to her. Due to the dietary experiments that he is working on, Oliver is being considered for a fellowship by the Van de Meer Foundation. They send their field man, Richard Calvert (Franchot Tone), to see for sure whether he merits it. As Richard turns out to be younger (and better-looking) than they had imagined, all three girls start vying for his attentions. Jane in particular attempts to impress him, although her attempts don’t quite work out. When Richard has to go back to New York ahead of a proposed trip to Australia, Jane volunteers to drive him. Since Don is working on her car, he offers to let her drive his car. When Don tells her that he would trust her no matter what she does, she is infuriated and decides to try to do something about her “nice girl” image. Using an idea she had gotten from something he had shown her before, she delays the car (without Richard knowing), which causes him to miss his train. In the process, she offers to drive him all the way back. On the way, they encounter a rainstorm (and, of course, the car malfunctions), resulting in them getting drenched. At Richard’s home, they both change clothes, and she attempts to seduce him. However, when Jane overhears him on the phone with his mother (in which he says that she is just “one of the Dana girls”), she feels foolish and leaves immediately for home. She arrives in town in the early morning, where she runs out of gas and accidentally wakes everybody in town up when the car’s horn gets stuck. Of course, that sets everyone’s tongues to wagging, and she locks herself in her room. She manages to tell her father the truth of what happened later, to which he is relieved. However, at the town’s charity bazaar, the gossip continues to flow, with everyone coming to the conclusion that she and Richard are engaged. Don hears the gossip, but doesn’t believe a word of it, and tells Jane so when she arrives. Furious at the fact that he is taking her for granted, she proceeds to tell everyone that the news of her “engagement” is true. Richard has also just arrived in town to tell Oliver that he is getting the fellowship, but, upon learning of the gossip, decides to go along with it. With some now pushing for an immediate ceremony, though, can they get out of this jam (especially since Jane realizes that she loves Don)?
Nice Girl? was based on a play called Nice Girl by Phyllis Duganne. The slight change in title was a reflection of actress Deanna Durbin being cast in the film. The young Deanna, who had up to this point been playing young girls, turned nineteen during the production of this film. As such, she was now making the transition into adult roles, and the film’s producers decided to add the question mark to the title to make it more ambiguous about whether she was indeed a “nice girl” (as her screen image had essentially been). When all was said and done, the movie essentially had three different endings: one where she sang the song “Thank You America” (which was the original one shown to U.S. audiences), one with her instead doing the song “There’ll Always Be an England,” which was mainly intended for their audience in the U.K., and a third version with her singing “Thank You America” in Spanish (for the Latin American countries).
As I’ve previously indicated, I had very little experience with Deanna Durbin prior to this year (outside of her being mentioned briefly in That’s Entertainment). Earlier this year, I experienced three of her films for the first time (and enjoyed all three quite a bit). Now, two of them, I mainly enjoyed for the stories and the performances, with the music not really sticking with me that much (although she certainly had a wonderful singing voice to handle it). With It Started With Eve, however, I found myself not only enjoying the story and her performance, but also at least the song “When I Sing.” Nice Girl? follows the trend of that film, not only with a good story and good performances, but also some very enjoyable music! I certainly know I enjoyed her opening song “Perhaps” quite well. But, the film’s best musical moment for me, was when she sang “Swanee River.” I’ve been hearing that song (and numerous versions of it) since I was a child, with my favorite being Bing Crosby’s version from the film Mississippi. However, with her voice, the chorus, and the overall orchestration, I found myself REALLY enjoying this version, and I would say it’s one of my favorite moments from her films so far!
Of course, I’ve enjoyed the comedy from her films as well, and this one still had it in spades! Admittedly, the best moments are when Franchot Tone’s Richard Calvert arrives at the Dana home, and all the girls start making themselves up for him (and never let him finish his story). Then, there’s later that evening, where they’re doing their exercises before going to bed (and he’s in the next room doing the same), and they talk about him (and how old they think he is), when he knocks on the door to tell them his age (and they then scurry off to bed). Honestly, both of those moments left me in stitches! Overall, this was a wonderful film, well-supported by a great cast, and it’s one I have zero hesitation in recommending!
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The transfer on this release is pretty good. Most of the dust and dirt has been cleaned up. There is an occasional speck or scratch, but nothing serious enough to ruin the enjoyment of this film. Sadly, of the three endings I mentioned, this release only contains the U.S. one (with her singing “Thank You America” to the troops), but, to be fair, this was one of nine titles originally licensed out to Kino Lorber Studio Classics (and one of the six that they dropped when the first set of three sold so poorly), so I’m grateful to be getting this one at all! It is a wonderful release, and highly recommended!
Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) – Deanna Durbin – It Started With Eve (1941)
Mutiny On The Bounty (1935) – Franchot Tone – Because Of Him (1946)
The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939) – Walter Brennan – Sergeant York (1941)
Robert Stack – To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
Dancing Lady (1933) – Robert Benchley – You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)
Swing Time (1936) – Helen Broderick – Because Of Him (1946)
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